MANILA, Philippines - John Altomonte — aka Johnny or simply “Jon” — was a handsome, gangly UP Fine Arts graduate when we met in 1970. He stood, bent and crouched as he slowly filled a blank wall with a powerful charcoal mural: Pan, the Greek god of Nature, giving fierce blessing to a mortal lying prone.
That mural was on the second floor of an old house rented by friends for the cocktail lounge Hurri-mana below. True to Pan, they loved to “nature-trip” in beaches and mountains together. Jon was the subtle, humorous one. Taller than the rest, he walked longer strides, always first to jump into the water, whooping, “Whee! I’m making love to you!”
Yes, we were the “love generation” in our 20s — one young scientist pondering e=mc2 on the beach, one future CEO, one professional Doubting Thomas, one budding filmmaker, poets and artists all exploring life together. But as the years went by, we dispersed to “follow our bliss” on different paths.
Jon wandered into a group around the Filipino psychic surgeon Virgilio Gutierrez in 1979, learning to heal with “mediumship” in “alternative metaphysics.” He turned out to be good it, “living life on simultaneous levels, at home in several paradigms of thinking, especially after the first few years of initial shock as my initiations introduced me to different levels of the mental and spiritual realms.”
Like our buddy poet Eman Lacaba, Mount Banahaw was sacred to us, our “refuge, source of inspiration and shamanic, spiritual muse.” But unlike Eman, who died with the NPA in a military encounter in 1976, Jon lived to delve into the ancient martial arts. He hardly let on as he silently went deeper, “beginning to understand the movement of ‘chi’ in the body in the Chinese and Japanese meridian concepts of energy flow.”
If you got too curious about what he was up to, he dodged questions with a wisecrack. Things have changed. Today he confesses: “Meditation, magical explorations of natural phenomena in the landscape and recognition of its natural musical patterns was a constant practice that I had to develop to understand better what I was growing into.”
On the second turbulent year after the Aquino assassination, Jon and his writer wife Dipsy felt their two daughters, 5 and 8, “deserved a better life and chances to grow up healthy.” Trading in his exquisite watercolors and drawings, they raised a thousand dollars to leave for Australia. He recalls, “Whoopee! Bunch of skinny, dark-skinned Pinoys arrived in Sydney on a freezingly clear, blue Autumn day. The girls' eyes were shining in wonder, but the priority was to survive the new environment.”
They survived and thrived. In a few years, he could pay his way for “formal studies in Zen Shiatsu, Chinese Acupressure, Remedial Massage, Myotherapy (healing musculoskeletal pain), Hypnosis and Counseling techniques.
“All these modalities seemed to make sense alongside each other when I started to develop a working model that I then applied the best of what I had learnt in practical terms. Slowly, with guidance from my metaphysical teachers, I developed a way to help others take a hand in healing themselves. Omnisoma (total body) was born of this fusion.”
Soon, Jon was working in two clinics in Sydney, simultaneously “longing constantly for more time to devote to deeper metaphysical studies and to explore my Art.”
Expanding consciousness was key: “I had been watching the growth of consciousness for decades, keenly aware that we were approaching a polarity of belief systems that was manifesting in real terms, exponentially. Apocalypsis as revelation was unfolding and time perception was collapsing in many ways.”
His clinical practice was doing well in Sydney — “a neurotic city peopled by individuals tied up with the ‘earn, buy and escape’ juggernaut, which creates too much internal conflict. Without realizing it, many people were imprisoned in this platform of existence.
"This made them angry people: good for my work, but exhausting and psychically consuming. That sort of energetic environment creates unwitting energy vampires.”
It was time for radical decision: “I knew I needed to work somewhere else if I was to devote myself to seeing and creating a clearer existence.” Jon broke away from “the increasingly stifled existence in Sydney,” and with Amalia, a fellow-healer — now his partner — they put their possessions in storage and “took off literally into the sunset.”
They travelled 7.5 thousand miles, taking many detours down the Northeast coastline towards “the real Australia, the red heart of the nation in the Northern Territory.”
Dreamtime began for Jon as they left the highlands for Darwin and stopped “at a remote place to take a break,” where he was “prompted to walk a short distance into the bush.” He found himself “in a clearing, standing on sacred ground — stones, trees, even fallen branches appeared to radiate outwards from the central point I was standing on. I spread my arms, asking for instruction and again I was prompted to look down at the ground.
“A small rock that could sit on the palm of my hand, called out. When I picked it up saw an image of a man's profile with what looked like a ray of energy entering the back of his head from above and behind him, I asked if I should keep it and I was answered ‘Yes.’
“I went into trance and an image of what I thought was a deva hovered slightly above me. I saw her face clearly; her form was of light, with currents of what seemed to be wind undulating around her. She was not old but she ‘felt’ like part of the rocks. As her face came closer, I could detect fissures and markings on the surface of her skin.This lasted for a moment, then I felt myself reconnecting as I heard Amalia calling out my name.”
Back in Sydney, when Dipsy learned that Jon and Amalia were visiting Darwin, she tipped him off on Bilawara, a Larrakia elder, healer and mistress of rituals for women’s rites of passage. Besides Bilawara’s Larrakia ancestry, she had ethnic Filipino and Chinese ancestral connections.
Dipsy was right. From their first phone call, Jon and Bilawara “immediately recognized each other as a kindred spirit.”
Visiting Darwin briefly after Kakadu, they joined her family for a picnic: “We all were very comfortable with each other. As I held a conversation with Bilawara's mom, Mary, she exclaimed out of the blue, ‘We leave our bodies all the time! It's very easy to do, once you know how.’
“Her eyes seemed to be focused on something beyond what the eyes could physically see. I was stunned... not by what she said, but because what she said triggered my recollection of the deva who appeared while I was in trance earlier that day. It was Mary whose visage I met! The likeness was definite, but there was an ancient energy present then that I could only barely feel while we sat around in a dreamlike setting, chatting flippantly about astral travel.
“Later I figured that this was spirit taking on form that would help me understand the stories that were being woven around me. Mary then proceeded to tell me about Darri-ba Nungalinya. I would say that I was initiated and welcomed by the Ancestors that day, verified by discussions with each member of the family. Its recounting is personal and sacred and can only be shared by verbal storytelling, a matter of respect for the spirits and their power.” (To be continued) - Rappler.com